The Evolution of Time Management, Part 2
In my last post, I introduced you to some of the ways I’ve addressed time management in my professional life. For me, and I think for most people, time management is a work-in-progress. We’ve never fully arrived, and we’re always finding new ways to streamline things.
In the last post, I left off when I was using my own self-developed system of splitting my to-do list into four quadrants. This had served me well during graduate school, but presented certain challenges as I began more actively freelancing.
Time for time management tweak #3: using a schedule.
Once again, in the off-season of the calendar season, I announced to my husband I was heading out to buy a new planner.
But not a DAY planner, an HOUR planner. You know what I’m talking about—the ones that OFFICE people use. The ones where each day has the time marked out by the hour or (in my case) quarter hour.
There’s a lot of evidence that to-do lists in and of themselves don’t really help you get things done. You have to actually schedule tasks and build them into your day. That’s what I was aiming for.
But friends, it was and still is a shock to the system. Never before have I used one of these things, and never before have I thought about my tasks and to-do lists in terms of a schedule.
Deciding in advance when you are going to do something on your task list is so… committal. So Final. In other words, it’s a lot like death.
In fact, the first few days I (tried to) use a schedule were about as awkward as planning my own funeral. I’d find myself staring at the different time zones and drawing a blank, like trying to read Arabic or Cyrillic script.
“How do I know what I’m going to feel like doing at noon?” I wondered in my frustration. “How do I know how long it’s going to take to finish editing this article?”
Gazing at the schedule, thinking “my brain should be telling me something right now, should be making sense of this for me.” Nothing. Dead silence. For three or four days in a row, I simply gave up and resorted to writing a to-do list on a post-it note, sticking into that day’s spot on the schedule.
I missed my own, familiar weekly planner and its comfortable four-lined quadrants. But I knew that if was ever to better manage the stress of freelancing, I need to get more comfortable with schedules.
On day five, after making my post-it note task list, I asked myself if there was anything I could schedule. Anything at all? Glancing at the list, I realized I could schedule my workout time and a lunch break—so I did. I stuck to the times, and it wasn’t awful. In fact, it was a little freeing because I didn’t have to think about the when of those activities anymore.
Each day I’ve tried to add a few more tasks to the official schedule.
I’m now about a week and a half into this new habit. I think my brain is literally growing more neural synapsis, because configuring my schedule is starting to feel more natural—at least, on some days. Other days, those hourly blocks still feel like strange portals from another dimension.
How have your time management efforts evolved over the years?